Over the summer, two faculty members from the University of Georgia department of theatre and film studies worked with the Aurora Theatre and Broadway Factor to bring Chris Anthony Ferrer’s debut play, “Swindlers,” to life. The play ran at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville in May and June.
Julie Ray, associate professor and head of the department of theatre and film studies, and Ivan Ingermann, associate professor and head of design, joined the production as the scenic designer and costume designer, respectively.
“Working with a new playwright is always exciting because it’s the world’s first premiere of a new play, and you get to design everything for the first time with no previous iterations,” said Ingermann. “You really have this amazing freedom to envision everything from scratch.”
Ray starts the process of scenic design by reading the script multiple times and figuring out the space. This is a two-pronged approach as she must decide what the space looks like aesthetically and how it works functionally.
“There is a lot of space planning and dealing with sight lines,” Ray said. “How do I facilitate certain actions and make room for the number of people required?”
After going over sketches with the director, she builds a model version of the set as well as drafts the design in the appropriate scale. While the set is being built, Ray works with the paint team to finalize colors and textures.
“Then we talk through all the props that are used in the show, including anything the actors will interact with and set dressing such as curtains or wall art,” said Ray. “This was a heavily dressed set. There were lots of rugs and taxidermy on the walls to show the eccentricities of the character.”
Ray brings deep experience to her work as a scenic designer, with multiple credits from Hollywood and Broadway after years spent in the industry. She has designed scenery for feature films including “Love & Other Drugs,” “Abduction” and “13 Days.” Her television credits include “X-Files,” “Babylon 5,” “Crusade” and various television movies. Her experience as a practitioner informs her work with UGA students and colleagues and keeps her in demand as a professional.
“When talking to my students about this job, I tell them I’m an architect, but I don’t have to deal with codes,” said Ray. “I’m an interior designer. I’m a painter. I’m a sculptor. I’m a historian. I get to do all the best parts of all these jobs rolled into one.”
Image: A scene from the play "Swindlers." (Photo by Casey Gardner Ford)